NHL Rumor Mill – December 28, 2021
The NHL’s holiday roster freeze has been lifted. Here’s a look at some bold trade predictions for the Canucks, Leafs, Oilers and in today’s rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre suggested Brock Boeser could be the Vancouver Canucks’ most vulnerable core player as part of his three bold 2022 predictions. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent status next summer and his struggles earlier this season before Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach.
It will take $7.5 million to qualify Boeser’s rights. While that doesn’t mean he’ll be traded, MacIntyre points out they can’t afford that figure as a launch point on a new contract if they also hope to re-sign Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller in 2023 and Elias Pettersson in 2024. “Something has to give. Or someone has to go”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boeser also has arbitration rights which could also complicate negotiations next summer. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $71 million committed to 16 players in 2022-23. They’ll also get $3.5 million in cap relief with Micheal Ferland on permanent long-term injury reserve. That’s enough to re-sign Boeser but won’t leave sufficient room to fill out the rest of the roster.
This will be an interesting test for whoever takes over as their new general manager. I doubt the Canucks will move Boeser but MacIntyre’s right when he said someone will have to go. Shedding a high-salaried veteran like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Tyler Myers would be ideal but it will be very difficult to find any takers even under normal circumstances.
Luke Fox believes the Toronto Maple Leafs will find a way to re-sign goaltender Jack Campbell as one of his three bold predictions for the club in 2022. Doing so, however, could mean attempting to trade or buy out Petr Mrazek or moving someone like Jake Muzzin or Alex Kerfoot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $76 million invested in 13 players for 2022-23. Even with the cap rising to $82.5 million next season, that won’t leave enough to re-sign Campbell and fill out the rest of the roster. Someone’s gotta go and it could be one or two of those mentioned by Fox.
Then again, if the Leafs crap the bed in the postseason again, perhaps a core player carrying a heftier contract gets moved, which could make it easier to re-sign Campbell. That’s assuming he doesn’t decide to test the market next summer where there will be teams willing to pay him big bucks if he and the Leafs fail to reach an agreement.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson recently speculated the Oilers could make a strong play for winger Phil Kessel if the Arizona Coyotes would retain half of his salary. He cited Kessel’s two Stanley Cups playing with stars in Pittsburgh.
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector suggested the Oilers could attempt to trade goaltender Mikko Koskinen by the trade deadline if Mike Smith returns to action and plays well in the New Year. If not, they could put Smith on LTIR and ride it out with Koskinen and Stuart Skinner.
Spector also predicted winger Kailer Yamamoto could end up moved by the trade deadline if his production doesn’t improve. He suggested the Seattle Kraken as a trade destination, perhaps for Mason Appleton or Carson Soucy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel’s cap hit is $8 million but the Coyotes carry $6.8 million when the Leafs retain $1.2 million. It could get expensive to convince the Coyotes to retain half of their share. They’re loading up with draft picks for 2022 and could seek a second-round pick in addition to whatever else their asking price could be.
It could be asking too much for Smith to still be healthy and playing well given his age and injury history. It will be worthwhile keeping an eye on the Oilers’ goaltending in the New Year.
Yamamoto really struggled since his promising 2019-20 debut when he netted 26 points in 27 games. Maybe the Kraken becomes his next home or perhaps he ends up with another NHL club by the March 21 trade deadline.